Gang member gets term of life plus 20

The Baltimore Sun

A 27-year-old self-described Bloods gang member was sentenced yesterday to life plus 20 years in prison for fatally shooting a man who prosecutors said was trying to calm tensions on a corner that recently had been tagged with gang graffiti.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge John N. Prevas also sentenced Thomas "Shaggy" Taylor, 27, of the 4000 block of Garrison Ave., to a concurrent 50 years for the attempted second-degree murder of another man who was wounded in the crossfire.

Taylor, who had been convicted in a jury trial in March, stood in court wearing a sweater in the gang's signature red color and declined to say anything before Prevas issued his sentence for fatally shooting Joseph Miller, 26.

The victim's aunt said on the witness stand that the tear drop tattooed under Taylor's eye - which she described as a symbol that he killed her nephew - showed that he boasts about the killing.

"A life prison sentence is for people who act without regard or caring for themselves or others," said the aunt, Delores Moore, of Hanover, Pa. "He displays no heart or hurt or remorse."

Before issuing the sentence, Prevas listed the number of chances that Baltimore prosecutors and judges have given Taylor. They included, Prevas said, dropped charges in 1997, 1998 and 1999; probation before judgment in two cases involving drugs and alcohol; a one month, 20-day prison term in a property destruction case; one year in prison in a drug distribution case; 10 months for a second-degree assault; six months for drug possession; and "a lot more" dropped charges and probation violations.

Prevas said Taylor had received drug treatment and later mental health care after he fled a group home in his teens and was suicidal.

"The repeated pattern indicates someone who can't function in society," Prevas said, calling the killing "a sociopathic effort to achieve effect" that "created a killing zone."

Assistant State's Attorney Theresa Shaffer, assigned to the homicide unit, said Taylor brought a gang affiliation to Oakfield and Norfolk avenues in Northwest Baltimore, which previously had been shared by unorganized, low-level drug dealers, who were committing nonviolent crimes.

By tagging the corner with graffiti, "he introduced a new element to the corner," Shaffer said. "He ID'd himself as a Blood. He spray-painted 'Bloods kill Crips' [on the side of a grocery store]. He upped the tension. Joseph Miller complained about the graffiti on the wall. ... He tried to walk in and say, 'Chill. There's room for everyone.'"

Shaffer said that after a confrontation at the corner, Taylor returned home, changed out of his red clothes into black ones, hid behind the hedges, and stood up and shot Miller, who lived in the 300 block of Marydell Road, and "almost killed another person along with him."

Shaffer said that Taylor needed "to let all of the wannabe, pretend gang members know that they're playing with fire," she said.

"We're pleased" with the sentence, Moore said. "We do know what happened now, unlike many families who don't. The pain never goes away, but at least justice is served."

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